making quick tomato sauce, ever so slowly
I AM CULTIVATING PATIENCE, THANKS TO MY TROUBLED TOMATOES, learning to wait between sadly small outbursts of red fruit. Even my quick red sauce—normally made in hasty batches that overflow two spaghetti pots at a time—is an exercise in restraint, more meditation than mass production. Once a staple I never thought twice about, this year the tomato seems like treasure, and I am treating each little harvest as such: chopping finer (above), simmering longer, taking time to thicken each batch, filling the house with what precious tomato vapor the forces of nature allowed. Grateful for what there is, I’m savoring every drop—especially today for Tomato Week, the final installment of our cross-blog Summer Fest 2009.
Even though I followed the rules (started seed carefully, then tended the plants correctly) things went wrong, and then wronger. You remember; many of you have suffered alongside me. Happily, my Summer Fest collaborators (mostly in areas where the harvest’s been better than here) have tomato stories of their own:
Matt Armendariz of Mattbites does tomatoes 10 ways. Really.
Paige Orloff of The Sister Project with tomato-carrot soup.
Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl with sliced tomatoes and smoked-tomato salsa.
Diane and Todd of White on Rice Couple with tomato jam recipes.
Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen on Caprese salad with basil vinaigrette.
This year’s crop proves that nobody’s perfect (though everybody’s beautiful in his own way; that’s me, front right, above). I’ve got every shape and misshape of tomato going, and they’re all going into the pot.
My basic sauce is really basic: Lots of whole sautéed garlic cloves in a puddle of olive oil, quartered plum tomatoes (or chopped if time allows, as it does this year) with skins and seeds and all, plus basil and parsley. Like I said, I usually really rush this. Simmer covered till the ingredients are thoroughly cooked, then remove the lid to let the sauce thicken while bubbling on low a little longer. A timer reminds me to stir every 15 minutes throughout.
Some years, after the desired 40 or so containers of sauce are in the freezer, there are still lots of tomatoes left (those tubs are from last year’s haul, above; I only have seven containers so far for 2009). My tactics for such past years of plenty (or for a glut of green tomatoes):
- Pickles and Mincemeat: Giving up and pulling your plants, green fruit and all? Pickle any unblemished ones with the same Refrigerator Pickles recipe I use for cucumbers (or peppers). Or turn them into Green Tomato Mincemeat for pies, also good as a chutney.
- All-Purpose Tomato Junk: Blessed with a bumper crop, and can’t cook them fast enough? Freeze them whole in freezer bags for saucing another time, or make Tomato Junk (and use it later as the base for soups or stews).
- Another Martha Memory: When the tomatoes are dead-ripe and the herbs are plentiful, why even cook anything but the spaghetti? One of Martha’s most charming (and literally handmade) recipes ever was the one she dubbed “Spaghetti No-Knife,” where you make a “sauce” of torn-up tomatoes, basil and oregano; smash a few garlic cloves, and toss it all (raw) in olive oil, with hot red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper. To serve, simply boil up spaghetti, toss with the tomato mixture, and tear off small pieces of fresh mozzarella as a final ingredient. The precise recipe is on Martha’s site here, but you get the idea. Finger food.
Happy harvest to you, for better or for worse.
HOW YOU CAN JOIN IN SUMMER FEST:
So now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Tuesday, July 28, for four Tuesdays through today, you can contribute in various ways, big or small. Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.
Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2009 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites).
THE 2009 SCHEDULE:
- Tuesday, July 28: HERBS. Any and all; I did parsley, and readers added everything else.
- Tuesday, August 4: FRUITS FROM TREES (also known as stone fruits, but we won’t scream if you toss in a berry or another fruit, promise). My entry was a peach clafoutis.
- Tuesday, August 11: BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (either or both, your choice). My entry was here.
- Tuesday, August 18: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?
And in case I forget what week it is, won’t somebody remind me on Twitter? Thanks. We’ll be talking it up there, too.
That’s how a Summer Fest works (and the way that Food Fest 2008 worked, too, remember?).